Yes, it’s time to look back, so I’m looking at the best shopping finds in 2012, a list topped by the beautiful quilts of Mekong Quilts.
I visited their shop in Hanoi’s Old Quarter, a cool, quiet space hung with handmade quilts made in the poorest villages in Cambodia and Vietnam.
The organisation is not-for-profit, and says 50 cents from every dollar spent in its shops provides books and scholarships for school children, and promote health and quality-of-life initiatives amongst what they describe as ‘the poorest of the poor’ through the NGO Mekong Plus, which started in 2001.
The group employs around 300 women in rural Vietnam and the Svay Rieng province of Cambodia to stitch the quilts, and now also to make baskets and other household products. Naturally, all are absolutely beautiful, and well worth the money.
My ABC quilt, which fits a baby’s cot, cost 1,155,000 Vietnamese dong (about A$50), a beautiful investment in every sense.
Then, just a few hundred meters and a few heartbeats away, still in South Yarra, the sweet scents from Burch & Purchese lured me in and hit me with salted caramel spread and a chocolate, mandarin and salted caramel cake. This is Adults Only sweets, kids, and they (and their cult following) take their salty caramel pretty damned seriously.
The triumvirate hit a week down the track, when I sauntered in to the northside’s new St Ali’s outpost, in the wilds of Carlton North. And there it was, except this time, the salted caramel appeared in a macaroon lurking on the side of its hit-me-between-the-eyes coffee. (Obvious note: salted caramel is the new macaroon.)
|Laid back? You bet. St Ali North|
I was caught off guard: I had only just finished mainlining what looks like your standard bacon-and-egg fry, but was in fact stone fruit halved and fried (that’s your ‘tomatoes’), and bacon ice cream, (the roll of white ice cream was doing a good poached egg impersonation, and the bacon was in the form of a scattering of tiny bacon chips on top), served on brioche. Yes, more salt-and-sweet: it was fabulous. I wish I’d photographed it for you, but reader, I hoovered it all up so fast, you would have had to use the ‘sports’ setting on your camera.
It’s not just me, check out seven (seven!) more Melbourne haunts to get the taste of 2012 in the excellent Broadsheet magazine.
|Powderhounds … it’s going to be a great year for
heli-skiing. Photo: Getty Images
|The Blackman hotel, St Kilda, Melbourne|
If you’re keen for a wintery holiday, there are bargains to be had.
New York City
|Paris B&B, petiteparis.com.au|
Cruise New Zealand
Dreaming of a white Christmas? Try Austria…or Australia (if Tassie turns on the cold tap) in this week’s best international and Australian travel deals.
Adelaide experiences include coffee at Lucia’s in the Central Markets, where
you can shop for a beach picnic in the cool shade of the jetties on the
spectacular sweeps of Semaphore and Henley beaches. Save 25 per cent when you
stay at the Hilton Adelaide. Book by February 14, 2013 for travel until
December 31, 2013. Costs from $169 a room.
1300 888 180, zuji.com.au.
Theatre, which is currently showing the classic ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’. Stay
one night in a deluxe room in the Metro Hotel Sydney Central, which can
accommodate up to two adults and two children, and they’ll include a buffet
breakfast for the whole family and chocolates on arrival. Normally from $189 a
night, stay until December 20. Costs
from $205 for two adults and two children 1800 00 4321,
Gallery/Gallery of Modern Art, one of Australia’s premier modern art galleries,
is worth the trip alone, including the current 7th Asia Pacific Triennial of
Contemporary Art, with 77 artists from 27 countries. The Brisbane Marriott’s
Discover Brisbane package includes one night in a deluxe city view room for
two, a $30 taxi voucher, free valet parking and breakfast buffet. Usually from
$199 room only, stay until January 31, 2013, costs from $249, quote promo code ‘ES2’.
(07) 3303 8000, brisbanemarriott.com.
airfare? It’s been known to snow in Tassie on Christmas Day, so maybe you’ll
get lucky. Or maybe you’ll get one of those perfect, blue-sky days and the
freshest air on the planet on this 11-day Best of Tasmania guided tour. Includes
a tour of thriving Hobart, MONA gallery and Christmas Eve at Cradle Mountain
Chateau. Travel on the December 22 departure and get an early Chrissy present
of $100 off. Costs from $3890 a person, twin share, excludes flights. 1300 228
but you’re wrong. Parkroyal on Pickering is set to open near Chinatown this
month. Designed by Australian architect Richard Hassel, it’s already earned the
country’s highest green rating, with solar power, water recycling and sky
gardens. The hotel’s opening special costs from $220++ with breakfast, from
January 1 – March 31, 2013. 1800 192 144, singaporehotels.parkroyalhotels.com/pickering/
and save. Get four nights free in Phuket at the Phuket Graceland Resort &
Spa, near Patong Beach, when you book eight nights in a superior room. You still
get daily breakfast and airport transfers, as well as a two-hour Thai massage
for two, and the resort includes kids’ club and facilities and a day spa. Book
by January 31, stay April 1 – November 15, 2013. Costs from $351 a person. travelonline.com
cutting $500 off its seven-night stays at mangoes Resort, in Port Vila. The
package includes return airfares from Sydney with Virgin Australia. Book by
December 31 for travel from now until December 21, and between January 10 –
March 31, 2013. Costs from $1171 a person, twin share. 131 516 or visit
and Buck Palace – on this 16-day tour through England, Scotland and Ireland. You’ll
also trail The Beatles through Liverpool on a local Magical Mystery Tour and
find what’s hip and happening in London, Dublin, Glasgow and Edinburgh. Tours
depart March to October 2013. Book by December 27, save $228 a person. Costs
from $2061 a person, twin share, land only. 1300 266
Mara national parks, to wake up to Mt Kilimanjaro and, of course, Kruger. APT’s
Africa Highlights, which runs year-round, spends 29 days traversing southern
Africa including 15 nights in South Africa and 11 in Kenya and Tanzania. The
package includes all internal flights, game viewing and accommodation in luxury
camps and private game lodges, and is sweetened by a companion-free-flight
deal, where your mate pays taxes of $795, saving up to $2040 for a couple. Book
before December 31, 2012. Costs from $18,995 a person, twin share. 1300 229
castle: it’s the antipodean’s dream of a perfect white Christmas. This 10-day
tour departs from Munich and traverses the winter landscapes of Germany,
Austria and Italy, stopping at Innsbruck and Salzburg’s famous Christmas
markets, popping in to Milan and Venice
for a spot of last-minute shopping. Too bad you won’t have time to post your
presents back home – oh well, you’ll just have to buy for yourself. The tour
includes four nights in CastelBrando, built in the first century and
continuously renovated to its current incarnation as a 4.5-star hotel. Set in
the foothills of the Dolomites, you’ll spend Christmas Day here, sitting down
to an Italian feast. Book by December 17 for travel December 18. Costs from
$3199 a person, twin share. 1800 044 066, travel-associates.com.au.
|Traveller’s Bar, Rendezvous Grand Hotel Melbourne|
I have to admit: I must have walked past the Rendezvous Grand Hotel Melbourne a thousand times, and have never looked in.
You could call the facade ‘unassuming’, but it’s actually just downright misleading.
The building celebrates its centenary next year, and the interior gives a clue to its age, with impossibly high, moulded ceilings, ornate stained-glass windows and fabulous old-school mahogany doors throughout.
We checked in on Tuesday afternoon for a quick city stay. It’s a business hotel through-and-through, so I have to warn you: the rooms are fine for a couple, but those toting tackers are in for a squeeze. For the best view in the house, ask for a corner room on the eighth floor, which will get you a little Juliet balcony, with fabulous views over Flinders St station. Otherwise the Heritage rooms are going to be a hit for their impossibly high ceilings and grainy photos of Melbourne streetlife in the shower.
In its time, it’s hosted Edward Prince of Wales, Fred Astaire and Gregory Peck filmed On The Beach here (1959, post-nuclear Australia), and the foyer was designed by the same architect responsible for the Titanic’s ballroom.
A highlight of the hotel is the Traveller’s Bar in the foyer. A beautiful space, it features Edwardian leadlighting and deep leather sofas. There’s also what has to be the best value happy hour in town, 5.30-6.30pm, $5 for house wines and beers, including Rothbury Estate’s sparkling.
The lead-in price stands at around $189 a night, check their pay one/stay two deal until January 13, 2013.
Rendezvous Grand Hotel Melbourne: 328 Flinders St, Melbourne, +61 3 9250 1888, rendezvous.com
1. Hong Kong, 69/100
2. Kuala Lumpur 65/100
3. Shanghai 63/100
4. Beijing 61/100
5. Singapore 60/100
6. Sydney 58/100
7. Bangkok 57/100
9. Seoul 55/100
10. Delhi 53/100
Hideaway tourism is so hot right now: Western Australia’s Kimberley, an island resort in the Maldives (pictured left), not to be confused with those other remote islands, Islas Malvinas, aka the South Atlantic’s Falkland Islands. There’s deals to be had in all corners of the world. Read on…
and they’ll hand over two tickets, worth $40, to the Museum
of Old and New Art (MONA) Theatre of the World exhibition in
their ‘Ultimate Hobart Package’. The hotel is a short walk from the ferry that
takes you up the Derwent River to MONA, or is a less romantic 15 minutes’
drive. Costs from $209 a night in a one-bedroom apartment until December
25. 131 517, mantra.com.au.
Hilton, on George St, is well placed to soak up the festive vibe. The hotels’Any
weekend Anywhere’ deal saves 25 per cent off its room only an dB&B rates on
stays from November 26, 2012 until December 31, 2013. Bookings are open unitl
February 14, 2013, and you must book at least seven days before you stay. Costs
from $209 a night. (02) 9266 2051, hiltonsydney.com.au.
head north to the tropical heat of Darwin and sink a sundowner as the sun sets
over the water. Crowne Plaza Darwin’s Recharge package knocks 20 per cent off
the room rate and throws in a free breakfast buffet on stays until February 28,
2013. Minimum three nights’ stay. Costs from $354 for three nights, 138 388, crowneplaza.com/recharge.
Yarra Valley is a vista of rolling hills and vineyards, with the 4.5-star Mercure
Balgownie Estate Vineyard Resort & Spa in its centre. The hotel has just
opened its new Experience Pool, set at a toasty 28 degrees, which provides therapeutic
treatments and exercises that tie in with its onsite spa. Stay midweek (Mon –
Thurs) in a one bedroom spa suite and they’ll include breakfast and a couple of
champagne cocktails – perhaps simultaneously? – on stays from December 16 to
February 28, 2013. Costs from $305 a night (03) 9730 0700, balgownieestate.com.au.
place to holiday in Australia@: take the family for a Gold Coast break for less
than a grand. Book a BYOKids family package for two adults and two kids staying
seven nights in a two-bedroom apartment in Turtle Beach Resort, and get a round
of putt-putt golf, paddle pop vouchers and welcome drinks, as well as a family pass to “Ripley’s
Believe it or Not,” worth nearly $50. Book by December 16 for stays from
now until December 21, and from January 27 – March 27, 2013. Costs $995 for 2
adults, 2 kids or $1170 for 2 adults, 3 kids. 1300 296 543, byokids.com.au.
by float plane. The Berkeley River Lodge sits on Joseph Bonaparte Gulf, on the Kimberley coast, one of Australia’s
great wildernesses an hour’s flight from the nearest town. Couples save $2100
and solo travellers save $1100 on this four-night package that includes
float plane transfers from Kununurra, guided treks, river cruises and fishing
adventures. Stay February 1 – March 31, 2013, costs from $5976 a couple, $4488
for solo, four nights. 1300 851 800, abercrombiekent.com.au.
starts in Florence, and sees you driving in a convoy of the classic tiny Fiat
500 cars along quiet private roads to a 15th-century Renaissance villa for a
Tuscan picnic, swim and wine tasting. The five-hour tour normally costs $190 a
person. Book and pay by December 31 for tours between February and October
2013, and save 25 per cent. Costs from $145 a person, twin share. (03) 5722
especially when their names are Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch.
Lucky you’ve got five days to do so, on a five-day Welsh Explorer. Other Welsh
classics on the tour include the wilds of Snowdonia, Conwy castle and a coal
mine. Save up to 15 per cent on bookings before December 21, quote code
‘earlybird’. Costs from $349 a person. 1300 287 226, haggisadventures.com.
|The Alhambra, Granada, Spain.|
Palace, the Alhambra – does Spanish sightseeing get any better? Yes, when you
add wine and tapas tasting, and sangria and flamenco in Seville. The eight-day
small-group Spanish Inspiration tour starts in Madrid and travels south to
Malaga. Save $812 on bookings made by December 15. Costs from $3468 a person,
twin share. 1300 100 410, backroadstouring.com.au.
44-bungalow island resort of Huvafen Fushi per Aquum one of its jewels, with
the world’s first underwater spa. The property has just reopened following a
refurb and is offering guests free speedboat transfers, free half board and a
stay five, pay four deal in its beach bungalows, complete with plunge pool,
until December 23. Usually from US$6050, costs from US$3800 for five nights. eliteresortsofasiapacific.com.
southerly marathon, on the far-flung Falkland Islands in the South Atlantic,
will take place on March 17, 2013. The remote archipelago comprises more than 700
islands off the eastern coast of Argentina, and its brief summer sees average
temperatures of just 15 degrees, though there’s plenty of sunshine. The
Falklands hosts an extreme marathon route that sees less than 50 runners
complete the race each year. An eight-day tour departs Punta Arenas in southern
Chile and visits a penguin colony in Chile, and the Falklands islands of Sea
Lion, Darwin and Carcass, for a chance to
mingle with the locals – human and animal, including reindeer, orca pods
and sea lions. The itinerary includes time for pre-race preparation and costs
from $4195 a person including internal
flights. +1 406 541 2677, adventure-life.com.